By BRIAN FERRY
The Drug Enforcement Administration's drug take-back program removed more than 400 pounds of unwanted medications from Warren County medicine cabinets in the spring.
There is another county-wide take-back event coming Oct. 26.
But the twice-a-year events are not convenient for everyone. The City of Warren Police Department has joined Youngsville Borough Police as agencies that can take unwanted, expired medications any time.
Thanks to a grant from the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) - one of only 49 such grants in the country - the Warren municipal building is now the home of a collection box.
The box is bolted to the floor and behind a locked door in the police department. Anyone who wants to get rid of medications may do so during normal business hours, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"This gives us the ability to do this all the time," Sgt. Brandon Deppen said. "Before, we couldn't accept them" except on take-back days.
The box operates much like a U.S. Postal Service mail box. Once the drugs are inside, they cannot be reached without a key. The few keys are in the possession of police evidence personnel.
The process is anonymous. "We're not going to collect information from you," Deppen said.
There is a limit on what can be put in the box. "The thing that we absolutely cannot take is sharps - needles, syringes, lancets," he said. "It's a safety issue."
Other medicines - pills, liquids and inhalers, controlled, non-controlled, and over-the-county meds - are accepted.
The medications may be deposited while still in their prescription bottles or may be sealed in zipper bags. Police ask that any liquids be "enclosed in secure containers and placed in a plastic bag," Deppen said.
Getting drugs out of the house has several benefits. First, young people in the house cannot take the medications - whether intentionally or by mistake. "Prescription medications are one of the most abused drugs out there because they're readily available," Deppen said.
It's not only young people who accidentally take the wrong medications.
Houses with medications are better targets for thieves.
And, the process is environmentally friendly.
"It allows people to dispose of unwanted or expired medications without flushing them down the toilet," Deppen said. Many medications that are disposed of in that manner end up in groundwater or rivers and streams."Most controlled substances are created synthetically and are not removed through normal waste-water processes," he added.
The drugs are disposed of by incineration in adherence to DEA policy.
City police will participate in the Oct. 26 drug take-back and will also collect at Senior Expo on Oct. 25.
Drugs collected between now and the next take-back will be disposed of by DEA.